Wrestling Season Preview
The West Virginia University wrestling team will open its 2012-13 season this Sunday, as it travels to College Park, Md., to take on Kutztown, No. 15 Maryland and Johns Hopkins in the Terrapins Duals.
Here is a preview of what to expect this year, along with input from coach Craig Turnbull on what he hopes to see from each weight class with a new season on the horizon.
The 2011-12 season was one filled with many successes for the Mountaineers, as they finished the dual meet schedule with a 9-4 overall record and 4-2 mark in the Eastern Wrestling League.
In addition, six grapplers qualified for the NCAA Championships held in St. Louis, including returners Shane Young (125), Nathan Pennesi (133), Michael Morales (141) and Lance Bryson (174).
Also qualifying for the national tournament were seniors Brandon Williamson (HWT) and Matt Ryan (184), who finished his career third on the program’s all-time pins list with 23 wins by fall.
Lastly, Morales, Ryan and Williamson became the 37th, 38th and 39th wrestlers in WVU history to win EWL crowns, respectively.
This season, West Virginia’s schedule features four open tournaments and 16 dual meets, with five dual meets at home. Of the 16 dual meets, seven are against opponents that finished the season in the 2011-12 NWCA/USA Today Division I wrestling rankings (Penn State, Pitt, Edinboro, Oklahoma State twice, and Oklahoma twice).
Tournament action on the schedule includes the annual stops at nationally renowned events – the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Reno Tournament of Champions – as well as the Navy Classic and the Wolfpack Open.
The Mountaineers conclude their dual meet schedule one day prior to the Big 12 Championships with the Big 12 Dual Meets in Stillwater, Okla.
West Virginia returns five wrestlers from last year’s lineup that placed third at the EWL Championships. Senior Shane Young, junior Nathan Pennesi, sophomore Brutus Scheffel, sophomore Dominic Prezzia and junior Lance Bryson will provide the Mountaineers with match experience.
Junior Colin Johnston returns, after missing the previous two seasons due to injury.
In addition, the Mountaineers will have a NCAA qualifier Michael Morales, who is expected to redshirt, to add depth at 141 pounds.
For the 2012-13 season, West Virginia brings in one of its strongest recruiting classes in program history.
Seven talented freshmen, along with Virginia Tech transfer Bubba Scheffel, look to make an immediate impact in the Mountaineers’ lineup.
Scheffel, who is the younger brother of Brutus Scheffel, was the 2010 Maryland Wrestler of the Year, was a three-time Maryland state champion and recorded the most wins in Maryland history, including an 83-0 mark during his sophomore and junior seasons. In addition, Scheffel was a three-time Mount Mat Madness champ, won the 160-pound class at the NHSCA Junior Nationals and was rated No. 56 nationally by InterMat.
Dink Purnell, who is the cousin of former WVU football player Lovett Purnell, compiled a 110-10 career record, was a two-time Delaware state champion, placed third at the 2010 Super 32 Challenge and was a two-time placer at the renowned Beast of the East tournament. At the 2012 FloNationals, Purnell was the champion of the 285-pound weight class.
Jason Luster, who competed at Pittsburgh Central Catholic High under highly respected high school coach Sonny Abe, is ranked as the 41st-best wrestler overall, 14th-best wrestler in the country in his weight class and the third-best wrestler in the state of Pennsylvania in his weight class. During his junior year, Luster compiled a 37-2 overall record and placed second in the PIAA state wrestling tournament. Luster placed first at the 2010 Best of the East tournament and the 2010 Ironman tournament.
A.J. Vizcarrondo, who competed in the 220-pound weight class during his prep career, is ranked as the 89th-best wrestler overall and fifth-best wrestler in the country in his weight class by WRESTLING USA MAGAZINE. Vizcarrondo placed second in consecutive years at the national preps, was the NHSCA national champion as a sophomore, finished third at the 2010 Beast of the East tournament and sixth and at the 2010 ASICS Junior Nationals.
Jared Browning, who won a state title at 119 pounds, has also placed third and second twice during his prep career. At the Super 32 tournament, Browning finished eighth out of 182 wrestlers. Browning was named the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers Wrestler of the Year as a junior.
Mike Hess, who was a high school teammate of Browning, comes as a four-time place winner (third, second, third, second) at the state level in Florida, as well as being a four-time regional champion. Hess sports a 172-9 career record with 106 of his wins coming by fall. In 2011, Hess placed sixth in the nationally renowned Super 32 tournament.
Cory Stainbrook will join the roster as a four-time place winner at the state level in Ohio. In addition, Stainbrook has also finished third at the 2010 Ironman tournament, third at the Powerade Christmas Wrestling tournament, second at FloNationals and participated in the Disney Duals.
Rounding out the group is Zach Cullison. During his prep career, Cullison was a two-time Maryland state champion at 132 pounds and had a 138-8 record.
Big 12 Wrestling
West Virginia became official members of the Big 12 Conference on July 1, 2012. In doing so, the Mountaineers joined one of the nation’s elite wrestling conferences.
In total, the four Big 12 schools that sponsor wrestling have combined for 49 team national titles, 271 individual national titles and 1,038 All-Americans – numbers rivaled by no other conference.
Thirty-Five Years and Counting
For the 35th season and counting, a familiar face leads the charge for West Virginia.
Coach Craig Turnbull, who has amassed 274 dual meet victories during the course of his career, is the seventh-winningest active coach in the NCAA and has been at the helm for 26 of the program’s 29 All-Americans, 42 EWL champions and more than 160 NCAA Championships qualifiers.
Furthermore, Turnbull has guided WVU to six EWL conference titles as well as 12 top-25 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Beauty and the Beast
After its highly successful debut during the 2010-11 season, West Virginia again will participate in a “Beauty and the Beast” promotion.
Scheduled to take place on Feb. 10, the Mountaineers will take on Ohio, while the gymnastics team will square off against Iowa State.
In its inaugural showing, 3,206 fans attended, as the Mountaineers took on Michigan State in wrestling and gymnastics.
Probable Starter: Shane Young
Three-time NCAA qualifier Shane Young finished the 2011-12 season with a 24-8 overall mark and an impressive 10-3 mark in dual meets. Young enters the 2012-13 season with a 68-28 career record, including 16 wins by fall.
“We are very, very solid at 125. We felt Shane had an opportunity to place in the national tournament each year from his freshman year to his junior year. In the end, experience is very critical, and he has three years of experience under his belt and there has been incremental progress in every aspect of his wrestling. We would like to think that he can be one of those guys that bring it all together during his senior year – that is something that wouldn’t be out of the question for Shane.”
Probable Starter: Colin Johnston
After missing the previous two seasons due to injury, Johnston returns to his familiar spot in the lineup with aspirations of returning to the form that saw him post a 21-4 record during the 2009-10 season. Johnston has a 30-13 career record.
“Colin Johnston is in an unusual spot in that he has been out the past two years with two different shoulder injuries. It is really hard to predict how much of an adjustment period there is going to be. The beginning of the year will be very important for him, but I do not see that adjustment taking long. When analyzing his career, he was on a very nice pace. He is one of a handful of people that may be able to compete for placement and more at the NCAA Championships.”
Probable Starter: Nathan Pennesi
After beginning the season as a 141 pounder, Pennesi made the move to 133 following an injury to Colin Johnston. Prior to the move, Pennesi posted a 19-4 record at 141 pounds. The Latrobe, Pa., native earned a trip to the NCAA Championships and led the Mountaineers in dual points for, nearfall points, technical falls and major decisions.
“Nathan Pennesi comes back to us at 141 pounds. His career has had a nice pace, and he is moving towards that elite category. He also has the character that is needed to be a great wrestler. Last year was exceptional for him. He showed his commitment to the program, after he began the year as a 141 pounder and had to make the move to 133 pounds during a two-week period in January.
Probable Starter: Brutus Scheffel
Following an injury during his freshman year, Scheffel found himself essentially as a true freshman starting at the 149-pound spot. Despite his lack of experience, Scheffel performed admirably, as he finished the season with an 18-15 mark, including a marquee win over No. 23 Dan Osterman of Michigan State.
“Brutus did a very nice job for us last season, because he did not get a whole lot of experience in his first year in the program after he injured his ankle. He showed the ability to wrestle on a very good level to on the verge of an elite level in some matches last season. With that kind of year under his belt, we hope that he takes a step to the next level and can compete consistently at a quality level.
Probable Starter: Dominic Prezzia or Jason Luster
Prezzia, who began the season by winning his first seven matches, completed the year with 17 wins and placed fifth at the EWL Championships. With a year of experience in hand, Prezzia looks to maintain his spot in the lineup.
“Dominic is similar to Brutus in some ways in that he has shown some very good signs early, but like a lot of freshmen, having a consistent diet of challenging matches can take its toll on you. We really believe now with a year under his belt that we should see a real positive change. We expect him to compete with this schedule, almost to a point that it may surprise some.”
Luster, who missed his senior year of prep wrestling due to shoulder surgery, joins the WVU roster with a large amount of prep success under his belt, which includes being ranked as the 41st-best wrestler overall, 14th-best wrestler in the country in his weight class and the third-best wrestler in the state of Pennsylvania in his weight class.
“Jason is a very talented freshman - there is no question about that. Jason did not compete in his senior year of high school, but he is a winner. He has won most of the major tournaments in the country. He has competed against many of the top wrestlers in the country successfully. It is going to be fun to see him wrestle. He is very powerful. It will be interesting how both of these guys come out of the mix.”
Probable Starter: Ross Renzi
Prior to injuring his knee during his senior year of his prep career, Renzi was a highly ranked wrestler from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Now, after a year of experience with the team, Renzi looks to be the starter at 165 pounds for the Mountaineers.
“Ross caught our attention at the beginning of last season, and he has shown athleticism and the ability to do a lot of things. As the season went on, he started to benefit from his quality workout partners and started to gain some confidence. We believe that he can compete very successfully, and he started to feel that last year as it went along. The thing that we don’t know with him is how he will respond to the grind of the season.”
Probable Starter: Bubba Scheffel
Scheffel, who joins the Mountaineers after a redshirt year with Virginia Tech, looks to be the starter at 174 pounds. In high school, Scheffel was a highly-sought recruit that was named the 2010 Maryland Wrestler of the Year, was a three-time Maryland state champion and recorded the most wins in Maryland history, including an 83-0 mark during his sophomore and junior seasons. In addition, Scheffel was a three-time Mount Mat Madness champ, won the 160-pound class at the NHSCA Junior Nationals and was rated No. 56 nationally by InterMat.
“We’ve got the two Scheffels back together. He definitely has that type of swagger that is needed to accomplish your goals. He has impressed us with his athleticism. He impresses us with his maturity, and he has an inner arrogance that is needed to be successful. He has shown the work ethic that shows that he wants to be successful now and not later.”
Probable Starter: Lance Bryson
Following two seasons spent on the sidelines after two separate shoulder surgeries, Bryson completed last season with a 25-16 record, including four wins over ranked opponents and his first-ever trip to the NCAA Championships.
“We really thought that Lance was exceptional last season after he basically didn’t practice for two seasons. He absolutely competed at a national level, and he was selected to compete at the NCAA Championships because of that. Lance is such an achiever in his life, and we expect he will be at a new level this season. With that year of experience, we are going to see that more offensive, aggressive and complete type of wrestling out of Lance that could put him on an elite level.”
Probable Starter: A.J. Vizcarrondo
In a lineup that will be filled with talented underclassmen, Vizcarrondo looks to make an impact in his first season with WVU. During his prep career, Vizcarrondo was ranked as the 89th-best wrestler overall and fifth-best wrestler in the country in his weight class by WRESTLING USA MAGAZINE. Vizcarrondo placed second in consecutive years at the national preps, was the NHSCA national champion as a sophomore, finished third at the 2010 Beast of the East tournament and sixth at the 2010 ASICS Junior Nationals.
“We have a very talented freshman in A.J. Vizcarrondo, who competed at a prep school that went where all the top competition was. He comes in with more seasoning than many of our top freshmen. As a true freshman, there are many unknowns, but he shows great work ethic and great desire to be good. We’ve been pleased with what we have seen thus far from him.”
Probable Starter: Phil Mandzik or Dink Purnell
With highly successful heavyweight Brandon Williamson having finished his career, the Mountaineers need to fill a large void in the lineup with either experienced senior Phil Mandzik or true freshman Dink Purnell. During the 2010-11 season, Mandzik tallied 10 wins. Purnell comes to WVU as a standout prep wrestler that compiled a 110-10 career record, was a two-time Delaware state champion, placed third at the 2010 Super 32 Challenge and was a two-time placer at the renowned Beast of the East tournament. At the 2012 FloNationals, Purnell was the champion of the 285-pound weight class.
“Nobody is going to outwork Phil. He is going to put more effort out than most people that we have. He has shown in open tournaments in the last year that he can compete at this level. Dink, on the other hand, is a very young freshman that just recently turned 18. He is very confident. He is very talented and very athletic. We know that he has a chance to be very successful. Who wins this spot will be interesting.”
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